LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Lord Byron.
Monthly Review  Vol. NS 13  (February 1830)  217-37.
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Art. VII.—Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, with Notices of his Life. By Thomas Moore. In 2 vols. Vol. 1. 4to. pp. 670. London: Murray. 1830.

It was made, if we rightly recollect, some time since, a matter of grave accusation against Mr. Moore, that yielding to the entreaties of interested parties, he consented to suppress, or rather to destroy, portions of a manuscript piece of auto-biography, which had been
218Lord Byron.
confided to him for publication by
Lord Byron. We are now informed that the omitted fragments consisted chiefly of satirical portraits of living persons, and it must, therefore, be at once admitted that in consigning them to the flames, Mr. Moore exercised a sound as well as an honourable discretion. If we may be allowed to judge from the journals before us, we should strongly suspect that the manuscript contained also some unreserved confessions of the errors of the noble author, during the early part of his short and passionate career. If so, it cannot be doubted that, in pronouncing a similar sentence of condemnation upon such passages, Mr Moore has evinced that good sense and right feeling, which we have often had occasion to admire in his own celebrated productions.

With every respect for that gentleman, it becomes our duty, however, to observe that it is, to say the least of it, doubtful, whether he has not, even yet, used the pruning knife rather too sparingly with regard to the original materials which were subjected to his revision. Let any person who reads this volume, ask himself, on perusing the last of its pages, whether it is a work which, so far as it goes, tends to exalt the character of Lord Byron. For ourselves, we must avow that we have risen from it with impressions unfavourable to the memory of that ill-fated nobleman, such as we had never entertained before. We had, of course, with the million, read and heard of statements and rumours affecting his moral reputation. But looking to the quarters whence they chiefly came, we were but little disposed to form a fixed opinion on the subject; and that opinion, feeble and wavering as it was, had almost faded away through the mere influence of time. The living fame of the bard was, by its steady brilliancy, gaining every day upon the transgressions of the man, and drawing more closely round them the curtains of oblivion. Thus the eccentricities and vices of Burns are already nearly forgotten by his contemporaries, and are very little known amongst the generations who are beginning to be acquainted with his poetry.

It is, perhaps, to be regretted that passages have been allowed to remain in this volume, which, sanctioned as they are by the authority of Mr. Moore, appear calculated only to immortalize a great portion of the scandal which has hitherto floated only upon the tongues of the malevolent. At the same time, we are ready to admit that the retention of matter of this description affords a signal proof of the independent and historical spirit which the Biographer has brought to the execution of his task.

In a literary point of view, the volume before us is perhaps the best specimen of memoir writing, which has been ever produced in our language. It has all the advantages of great variety, not only as to subject, but as to style. In the latter respect we may observe a striking difference between the composition of Lord Byron’s letters and that of his journals. In the former, he does not hesitate
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to take any expression that happens to occur to a highly excited fancy. He often uses phrases which are usually found only in the dictionary of the pugilists, or borrowed from the coteries of Harrow or Cambridge, of scarcely superior elegance. Sometimes he tries his hand at invention, and strikes out an expression not ill-suited to his purpose. In the journals his diction is more careless. In neither the letters nor the journals, do we observe any promise of that excellence, attributed by
Mr. Moore to the epistles which are to compose the second volume.

The narrative portion of the present work, which belongs to the Biographer, might easily be comprised in a small duodecimo. It is framed in a style almost the reverse of that which disfigured the “Life of Sheridan.” It is distinguished by a total freedom from affectation and metaphor, and flows onward in its even course arrayed only in a charming simplicity. Several of the letters have been already published. But many are also now presented to the reader for the first time. In the journals also, as well as in Mr. Moore’s narrative, there is a sufficiency of novelty to prevent the mind from being wearied with the perusal, although the whole volume occupies nearly seven hundred pages.

Those who are acquainted with Lord Byron only through the medium of his poetry, will hardly believe, though there can be no doubt of the fact,—that he was prouder of his ancestry than of his fame as an author. His pride was not unfounded, as there are few families in England which can shew a line of more ancient and more honourable descent than that to which he belonged. His immediate progenitors, however, appear to have been not very prudent in their financial affairs. His father, Captain Byron, was a mere spendthrift, as well as a most dissolute personage. He prevailed on Lady Carmarthen to elope with him to the continent, and married her after her former husband had obtained a divorce. The Honourable Augusta Byron, now the wife of Colonel Leigh, was the only issue of that union. Her mother having died in 1784, Captain Byron, in the following year, married an heiress,—Miss Catherine Gordon, of Gight, in Scotland, and in a very short time he contrived to dissipate almost the whole of her fortune. A sojourn upon the continent was the consequence. Soon after their return to England, viz. 22d January, 1788, her only son was born, in Holles-street, London. In reference to the accident of his having been an only child, Lord Byron, in one of his journals, mentions the following curious coincidences: “I have been thinking,” he says, “of an odd circumstance. My daughter, my wife, my half-sister, my mother, my sister’s mother, my natural daughter, and myself, are, or were, all only children. My sister’s mother (Lady Conyers) had only my half-sister by that (her second) marriage (herself, too, an only child), and my father had only me, an only child, by his second marriage with my mother, an only child too, Such a complication of only
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children, all tending to one family, is singular enough, and looks like fatality almost.”

The conduct of Captain Byron rendered a separation inevitable; young Byron, however, remained with his mother, and lived for several years at Aberdeen, under her care. It sufficiently appears that her example was not much calculated to improve his natural disposition, which, even at a very early age, was quite unmanageable. When reprimanded by his nurse, he sometimes rent his frock from top to bottom, in one of what he afterwards called his “silent rages.” In this he only imitated his mother, who is represented to have frequently performed a similar operation upon her caps and gowns. Indeed the account given of this lady in every part of this work, and apparently upon the best authority, reminds us of the furies of ancient times. Under the tutelage of such a woman, we can scarcely wonder at the untameable sort of disposition which formed the principal element of evil in the character of Lord Byron. She did not even hesitate, in moments of irritation, to reproach him with the deformity of one of his feet, which was twisted out of its natural position at the time of his birth—an accident attributed by Lord Byron to a false sense of delicacy on the part of his mother.

Notwithstanding this rebelliousness of temper, there was from his earliest age a trait in young Byron’s character which ran through it to the last, and which rendered him sometimes a very tractable, if not even an amiable person, in the hands of any body who knew how to win his good opinion, and had gained an influence over him. Such in his childhood was his nurse, Mary Gray; and we shall have occasion to remark, in the course of his life, that he was particularly attached to the system of “favouritism.” It is a singular fact, that through the attentions of his nurse, who was a woman of great piety, he attained a far earlier and more intimate acquaintance with the sacred writings, than falls to the lot of most young people. It is perhaps more singular still, that at the most depraved period of his after-years, when, if not a theoretical, he was decidedly a practical atheist, and scorned the notion of any kind of religion, and of futurity,—he still retained all his early fondness for the Old Testament.

At the age of five years, young Byron was sent to a day school at Aberdeen, where the enormous sum of five shillings per quarter was paid for his education. He was subsequently transferred to an establishment of a higher order, where his chief ambition was to distinguish himself as a good boxer. He next fretted at home under the care of a Scotch tutor, the learned son of a shoemaker, from whose superintendence he was recalled to England, in his tenth year, by the demise of his uncle, to whose title and possessions, such as these were, he then became entitled to succeed.

Lord Byron. 221

During young Byron’s residence in Scotland, an attack of scarlet fever rendered it necessary for his mother to take him, for change of air, to the Highlands, to whose romantic scenery, he often reverts in his writings. It has been sometimes thought that this visit to the mountains and lakes of the north sowed the germ of poesy in his youthful mind. Mr. Moore combats this opinion, in a little digression, which is prettily written; and in which his own experience enables him to shew, that such impressions of natural scenery as young Byron then received, might perhaps be justly considered as among the purest aliments of his genius, when it was subsequently awakened,—but not the sources of its inspiration. Such impressions received in childhood must be classed, he thinks, ‘with the various other remembrances which that period leaves behind—of its innocence, its sports, its first hopes, and affections—all of them reminiscences which the poet afterwards converts to his use, but which no more make the poet, than—to apply an illustration of Byron’s own—the honey can be said to make the bee that treasures it.’

It was, we suppose, in one of his mountain rambles, that our hero, at the early age of eight years, fell “in love” with Mary Duff. This incident is dwelt upon with serious recollection in one of his journals, and in terms which leave little doubt that his affections were really engaged at that period. Mr. Moore reminds us, that Dante was but nine years old, when he saw and loved Beatrice; and that Canova well remembered having been in love, when but five years old. Alfieri, who is also said to have been a precocious lover, looked upon such premature susceptibility to be an infallible sign of a soul framed for the fine arts. An instance of a similar description has fallen within our own observation; in which all the pure effects of that passion were more apparent than in any affair of the heart which it has ever fallen to our lot to witness. The greater number of our readers will perhaps be inclined to laugh both at the instances mentioned by Mr. Moore, and at our testimony in favour of their probability; so we shall quit the land of romance, and attend young Byron on his first journey to Newstead, of which he and his mother went to take possession upon the death of his uncle.

The character of the old gentleman had already surrounded that ancient monastery with imaginary horrors. He had killed his neighbour, Mr. Chaworth, in an affray, and frightened his wife away from him. In his latter years he lived in complete seclusion from the world,—his only companions being a colony of crickets which he had reared, an old man servant, and his cook, who, perhaps, for sufficient reasons, was dignified in the neighbourhood with the title of Lady Betty. He had endeavoured to strip his heir of the family estate of Rochdale, in Lancashire, by a sale, which, however, was subsequently invalidated; and the grounds and mansion at Newstead, were found by their new possessor in a
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state of the most lamentable decay. This possession took place in the summer of 1798.
Mr. Moore preserves an anecdote connected with it which we must not pass over.

‘They had already arrived at the Newstead toll-bar, and saw the woods of the Abbey stretching out to receive them, when Mrs. Byron, affecting to be ignorant of the place, asked the woman of the toll-house—to whom that seat belonged? She was told that the owner of it, Lord Byron, had been some months dead. “And who is the next heir?” asked the proud and happy mother. “They say,” answered the woman, “it is a little boy who lives at Aberdeen.”—“And this is he, bless him!” exclaimed the nurse, no longer able to contain herself, and turning to kiss with delight the young lord who was seated on her lap.’—p. 25.

In the following remarks, we may trace some of the circumstances which shed a baneful influence upon the life of Lord Byron.

‘Even under the most favourable circumstances, such an early elevation to rank would be but too likely to have a dangerous influence on the character; and the guidance under which young Byron entered upon his new station was, of all others, the least likely to lead him safely through its perils and temptations. His mother, without judgment or self-command, alternately spoiled him by indulgence, and irritated, or—what was still worse,—amused him by her violence. That strong sense of the ridiculous, for which he was afterwards so remarkable, and which showed itself thus early, got the better even of his fear of her; and when Mrs. Byron, who was a short and corpulent person, and rolled considerably in her gait, would, in a rage, endeavour to catch him, for the purpose of inflicting punishment, the young urchin, proud of being able to outstrip her, notwithstanding his lameness, would run round the room, laughing like a little Puck, and mocking at all her menaces. In the few anecdotes of his early life which he related in his “Memoranda,” though the name of his mother was never mentioned but with respect, it was not difficult to perceive that the recollections she had left behind—at least, those that had made the deepest impression—were of a painful nature. One of the most striking passages, indeed, in the few pages of that Memoir which related to his early days, was where, in speaking of his own sensitiveness on the subject of his deformed foot, he described the feeling of horror and humiliation that came over him, when his mother, in one of her fits of passion, called him, “a lame brat.” As all that he had felt strongly through life was, in some shape or other, reproduced in his poetry, it was not likely that an expression such as this should fail of being recorded. Accordingly we find, in the opening of his drama, “The Deformed Transformed,”
‘“Bertha. Out, hunchback!
Arnold. I was born so, mother!”’
It may be questioned, indeed, whether that whole drama was not indebted for its origin to this single recollection.

‘While such was the character of the person under whose immediate eye his youth was passed, the counteraction which a kind and watchful guardian might have opposed to such example and influence was almost wholly
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lost to him. Connected but remotely with the family, and never having had any opportunity of knowing the boy, it was with much reluctance that
Lord Carlisle originally undertook the trust; nor can we wonder that when his duties as a guardian brought him acquainted with Mrs. Byron, he should be deterred from interfering more than was absolutely necessary for the child, by his fear of coming into collision with the violence and caprice of the mother.

‘Had even the character which the last Lord left behind been sufficiently popular to pique his young successor into an emulation of his good name, such a salutary rivalry of the dead would have supplied the place of living examples; and there is no mind in which such an ambition would have been more likely to spring up than that of Byron. But unluckily, as we have seen, this was not the case; and not only was so fair a stimulus to good conduct wanting, but a rivalry of a very different nature substituted in its place. The strange anecdotes told of the last lord by the country people, among whom his fierce and solitary habits had procured for him a sort of fearful renown, were of a nature livelily to arrest the fancy of the young poet, and even to waken in his mind a sort of boyish admiration for singularities which he found thus elevated into matters of wonder and record. By some it has been even supposed that in these stories of his eccentric relative his imagination found the first dark outlines of that ideal character, which he afterwards embodied in so many different shapes, and ennobled by his genius. But however this may be, it is at least far from improbable that, destitute as he was of other and better models, the peculiarities of his immediate predecessor should, in a considerable degree, have influenced his fancy and tastes. One habit, which he seems early to have derived from this spirit of imitation, and which he retained through life, was that of constantly having arms of some description about or near him—it being his practice, when quite a boy, to carry, at all times, small loaded pistols in his waistcoat pockets. The affray, indeed, of the late lord with Mr. Chaworth had, at a very early age, by connecting duelling in his mind with the name of his race, led him to turn his attention to this mode of arbitrament; and the mortification which he had, for some time, to endure at school, from insults, as he imagined, hazarded on the presumption of his physical inferiority, found consolation in the thought that a day would yet arrive when the law of the pistol would place him on a level with the strongest.’—pp. 25—27.

By the advice of Lord Carlisle, and with the view of procuring the assistance of Dr. Baillie, towards the cure of his deformity, Lord Byron was sent to the late Dr. Glennie’s school at Dulwich, in the summer of 1799. At the same time his mother fixed her residence at Sloane Terrace, and so frequently interrupted his attention to school business by sending for him, and led the worthy Doctor such a life when he refused to let him go home, that he was too happy, at the end of nearly two years, to get rid of both the mother and son. The latter was next placed at Harrow, of which the Rev. Dr. Drury was at that time, 1801, the head master. Of his habits while at that school we have from his own pen abundant memoranda, from which we shall select a few of the most characteristic.

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‘“Till I was eighteen years old (odd as it may seem) I had never read a Review. But while at Harrow, my general information was so great on modern topics as to induce a suspicion that I could only collect so much information from Reviews, because I was never seen reading, but always idle, and in mischief, or at play. The truth is, that I read eating, read in bed, read when no one else read, and had read all sorts of reading since I was five years old, and yet never met with a Review, which is the only reason I know of why I should not have read them. But it is true, for I remember when Hunter and Curzon, in 1804, told me this opinion at Harrow, I made them laugh by my ludicrous astonishment in asking them ‘What is a Review?’ To be sure, they were then less common. In three years more, I was better acquainted with that same; but the first I ever read was in 1806-7.

‘“At school I was (as I have said) remarked for the extent and readiness of my general information; but in all other respects idle, capable of great sudden exertions (such as thirty or forty Greek hexameters, of course with such prosody as it pleased God), but of few continuous drudgeries. My qualities were much more oratorical and martial than poetical, and Dr. Drury, my grand patron (our head master), had a great notion that I should turn out an orator, from my fluency, my turbulence, my voice, my copiousness of declamation, and my action. I remember that my first declamation astonished him into some unwonted (for he was economical of such) and sudden compliments, before the declaimers at our first rehearsal. My first Harrow verses (that is, English, as exercises), a translation of a chorus from the Prometheus of Æschylus, were received by him but coolly. No one had the least notion that I should subside into poesy.

‘“Peel, the orator and statesman (‘that was, or is, or is to be’), was my form-fellow, and we were both at the top of our remove (a public-school phrase). We were on good terms, but his brother was my intimate friend. There were always great hopes of Peel, amongst us all, masters and scholars—and he has not disappointed them. As a scholar he was greatly my superior; as a declaimer and actor, I was reckoned at least his equal; as a schoolboy, out of school, I was always in scrapes, and he never; and in school, he always knew his lesson, and I rarely,—but when I knew it, I knew it nearly as well. In general information, history, &c. &c. I think I was his superior, as well as of most boys of my standing.’”—pp. 40—41.

One of the most redeeming traits in the character of Lord Byron, was that strong susceptibility for friendship, to which we have already alluded.

‘“My school-friendships were with me passions* (for I was always violent), but I do not know that there is one which has endured (to be sure some have been cut short by death) till now. That with Lord Clare begun one of the earliest and lasted longest—being only interrupted by distance—that I know of. I never hear the word ‘Clare’ without a beating of the heart even now, and I write it with the feelings of 1803-4-5 ad infinitum.”’—p. 42.

* On a leaf of one of his note books, dated 1808, I find the following passage from Marmontel, which no doubt struck him as applicable to the enthusiasm of his own youthful friendships:—“L’amitie, qui dans le
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Mr. Moore states, that ‘the following description of what Lord Byron felt after leaving Harrow, when he encountered in the world any of his old school fellows, falls far short of the scene which actually occurred but a few years before his death in Italy; when on meeting with his friend, Lord Clare, after a long separation, he was affected almost to tears, by the recollections which rushed upon him.’
“——If chance some well remember’d face,
Some old companion of my early race,
Advance to claim his friend with honest joy,
My eyes, my heart proclaim’d me still a boy;
The glittering scene, the fluttering groups around,
Were all forgotten when my friend was found.”—p. 45.

There is a trait of magnanimity about the subjoined anecdote, which it is impossible not to admire.

‘While Lord Byron and Mr. Peel were at Harrow together, a tyrant some few years older, whose name was ******, claimed a right to fag little Peel, which claim (whether rightly or wrongly, I know not) Peel resisted. His resistance, however, was in vain:—****** not only subdued him, but determined also to punish the refractory slave; and proceeded forthwith to put this determination in practice, by inflicting a kind of bastinado on the inner fleshy side of the boy’s arm, which, during the operation, was twisted round with some degree of technical skill, to render the pain more acute. While the stripes were succeeding each other, and poor Peel writhing under them, Byron saw and felt for the misery of his friend; and, although he knew that he was not strong enough to fight ****** with any hope of success, and that it was dangerous even to approach him, he advanced to the scene of action, and with a blush of rage, tears in his eyes, and a voice trembling between terror and indignation, asked very humbly if ****** would be pleased to tell him, “how many stripes he meant to inflict?”—“Why,” returned the executioner, “you little rascal, what is that to you?”—“Because, if you please,” said Byron, holding out his arm, “I would take half?”’—pp. 45, 46.

His remarkable attachment to aristocratic notions, had already obtained for him at Dulwich, the appropriate nickname of the “Old English Baron.” His friendships were indeed chiefly formed among boys, who in point of rank were his inferiors; yet even this preference would appear to have arisen from the pride of affording “protection,” and was in itself essentially Patrician.

We have already mentioned Lord Byron’s first love. Her image was in due time displaced by Margaret Parker, his cousin, who, having died in consequence of a fall which injured her spine, left the throne of his affections open for a new sovereign, who took possession of it when he was about the age of fifteen. This affair was father more serious than any which preceded it, for his biographer

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tells us that ‘it sunk so deep into his mind, as to give a colour to all his future life.’ The object of his new flame, was
Miss Chaworth, who was about two years older than himself, and the heiress of Annesley, an estate adjoining his own. A union with her he hoped would heal the feuds which had existed between their fathers, and have paired lands “broad and rich.” He evidently set his heart upon her, for besides her worldly endowments, she was possessed of ‘much personal beauty, and a disposition the most amiable and attaching.’ But alas for his hopes, her heart was already engaged, and the mortification of his rejection as a lover was infinitely enhanced by Miss Chaworth having said to her maid, “do you think I could care any thing for that lame boy?” This pretty speech was either overheard by, or reported to him, and as he himself described it, “was like a shot through his heart.” No more of his Harrow vacations appear to have been spent at Annesley. The object of his attachment was married in 1805, to Mr. John Musters.

It appears that the character of young Byron, at Harrow, was that of a capital declaimer and an idle body. The latter imputation was not unfounded, says his biographer, as far as regards his tasks in school. He had, however, already devoured an incredible number of works in all departments of literature, always excepting those which were in any way connected with his scholastic studies.

In October, 1805, he was removed to Trinity College, Cambridge, where his time does not appear to have passed very pleasantly. His vacations were usually spent with his mother, at Southwell, amid the cheerful society of the Pigots, the Bechers, the Leacrofts, and the Hansons, from whom he experienced the most affectionate attentions. With these friends, particularly with the Pigots, his letter-writing first began; they also had the good fortune to be acquainted with his first experiments in poetry, which appear to have been commenced about the year 1806; at least it would seem that he then first thought of printing his verses. He was, says his biographer, in the parlour of that cottage which, during his visits to Southwell, had become his adopted home. Miss Pigot, who was not before aware of his turn for versifying, had been reading aloud the poems of Burns, when young Byron said that “he too was a poet sometimes, and would write down for her some verses of his own, which he remembered.” He then, with a pencil, wrote those lines beginning “In thee I fondly hoped to clasp,” which were printed in his first unpublished volume, but are not contained in the editions that followed. The rage for printing then took entire possession of him, although his views were limited only to the circle of his friends. Ridge, the bookseller, at Newark, had the honour of receiving his first manuscripts. At Southwell, also, young Byron enacted in private theatricals with no mean eclat. His favourite characters, at least those in which he appeared to the greatest advantage, were Pen-
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ruddock, in the “
Wheel of Fortune,” and Fickle, in the “Weathercock;” the gloom of the one, and the whim of the other, ‘being types, as it were, of the two extremes, between which his own character in after-life so singularly vibrated.’ He furnished the prologues and epilogues on these occasions, in which he frequently betrayed his talent for satire.

Of his first volume of poetry, printed for private circulation, only two, or, at the utmost, three copies, are now said to be extant. It was printed in quarto, and consisted but of a few sheets, filled chiefly with imitations of Lord Strangford’s Camoen’s, and Little’s poems. It is due to Mr. Moore to remark, that he fully agreed in the opinion of a friend of Lord Byron, who represented to him that, at least so far as the latter author was concerned, there were ‘much more worthy models, both in style and thought, to be found among the established names of English literature.’ In compliance with the wishes of his friend, the first edition was recalled, and a second substituted for it in 1807, consisting of about one hundred copies. The applause which they obtained, urged him at length to the publication of the “Hours of Idleness,” which launched him fairly upon the tide of public opinion, and appears, in the first instance, to have had very considerable success.

In the Spring of the following year, 1808, appeared the famous critique upon this production in the Edinburgh Review, with the history and consequences of which our readers are so well informed that we need not dwell upon them. We fully agree, however, in the justice of Mr. Moore’s remark, ‘that the early verses of Lord Byron, however distinguished by tenderness and grace, give but little promise of those dazzling miracles of poesy with which he afterwards astonished and enchanted the world; and that, if his youthful verses now have a peculiar charm in our eyes, it is because we read them, as it were, by the light of his subsequent glory.’

It is lamentable to find that at this early period of his life, Lord Byron, having scarcely attained his twentieth year, had been already a thorough sceptic in religion, and a complete adept in the vices of the metropolis. He had even formed a connection, the object of which became domesticated with him in lodgings at Brompton, and accompanied him disguised in boy’s clothes. This person he introduced as his younger brother. In the vulgar exercises of boxing and sparring he took great delight, and thus became acquainted with the well-known Jackson, ‘for whom he continued through life to entertain the sincerest regard.’ D’Egville, the ballet master, and Grimaldi, the clown, were amongst his favourite companions. In gambling also he was already a proficient.

It was in the autumn of this year (1808), that Lord Byron took up his residence at Newstead, where, from his disappointed affections and baffled hopes, melancholy gained fast upon him. A great portion of his time was dedicated to his satire, “English Bards and
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Scotch Reviewers,” with which he appears to have taken more pains than with any other of his compositions. In 1809 he attained is majority, and celebrated it by dining on eggs and bacon and a bottle of ale. His pecuniary supplies were already so inadequate to his wants, that he was obliged to borrow money at an enormously usurious interest, which long preyed upon his finances.

In addition to the other causes of mortification which were already sufficiently numerous to weigh heavily upon a sensitive mind, be had now to undergo a trial of more than common bitterness to a young and proud nobleman, upon his very first step in the exercise of his hereditary privileges. It is worth observing, that on coming to London to take his seat in the House of Lords, he brought with him his satire prepared for publication; and containing among other things, a neatly turned compliment to his guardian, in the following terms:—
“On’one alone Apollo deigns to smile,
And crowns a new Roscommon in Carlisle.”

This compliment was soon exchanged for verses of a wholly opposite description, and perhaps the change is not to be wondered at, when we learn, that the Earl of Carlisle, from whom he had some right to expect such a mark of kindness, refused to attend him on taking his seat, and that he was in consequence obliged to go through that interesting ceremony alone. We can scarcely imagine a slight more wounding to his pride than this. It would seem, that he at first intended to exert himself as a legislator; but after trying his powers of oratory on two or three occasions, on which he displayed principles that would now be set down as almost ultra-radical, the novelty of the thing wore off, and he turned his mind wholly to that art in which he was destined to shine with a brighter splendour.

Upon the effect of his satire, after it was published, we need make no remark. Mr. Moore has collected several notes, highly interesting in a literary point of view, connected with it, for which we must refer to his volume. It is well known that the noble author subsequently repented of his production; he must have felt that it went vastly beyond the provocation he had received, galling as it was; and that his spirit was embittered not only against those who had injured him, but against all mankind.

Shortly after the publication of this work, Lord Byron went for the first time abroad. But before we follow him in his journey, we must notice a series of farewell revelries which took place at Newstead, in the spring of 1809. His visitors, consisting of Charles Skinner Matthews, Esq. and four others not named, sat down to dinner arrayed in monkish dresses, with crosses, beads, &c., about eight o’clock in the evening. After dinner, Burgundy was handed around in a human skull, and they seldom retired before two o’clock in the morning. We turn from the scenes of depravity
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which followed, and which though passed over with as much delicacy as possible by
Mr. Moore, may, even through his apologies, be abundantly understood.

Lord Byron left England in the month of June, 1809, for Lisbon;* his mind overloaded with the many mortifying reflections which the retrospect of his past career suggested. From Lisbon he travelled by Seville and Cadiz to Gibraltar, and thence to Albania and Greece, where Mr. Hobhouse’s travels have long since informed us of their adventures. After Mr. Hobhouse left him, he proceeded to Constantinople, and then returned to Greece, where the first cantos of his Childe Harold appear to have been written. After an absence of about two years he returned to England, with feelings which are painfully described in the following extract from one of his letters.

‘“Indeed, my prospects are not very pleasant. Embarrassed in my private affairs, indifferent to public, solitary without the wish to be social; with a body a little enfeebled by a succession of fevers, but a spirit, I, trust, yet unbroken, I am returning home without a hope, and almost without a desire. The first thing I shall have to encounter will be a lawyer, the next a creditor, then colliers, farmers, surveyors, and all the agreeable attachments to estates out of repair and contested coal-pits. In short, I am sick and sorry, and when I have a little repaired my irreparable affairs, away I shall march, either to campaign in Spain, or back again to the East, where I can at least have cloudless skies and a cessation from impertinence.”’—pp. 247, 248.

His biographer informs us of some of the miseries which awaited him on his arrival.

* ‘Lord Byron used sometimes to mention a strange story, which the commander of the packet, Captain Kidd, related to him on the passage. This officer stated that, being asleep, one night, in his birth, he was awakened by the pressure of something heavy on his limbs, and, there being a faint light in the room, could see, as he thought, distinctly, the figure of his brother, who was, at that time, in the naval service in the East Indies, dressed in his uniform and stretched across the bed. Concluding it to be an illusion of the senses, he shut his eyes and made an effort to deep. But still the same pressure continued, and still as often as he ventured to take another look, he saw the figure lying across him in the same position. To add to the wonder, on putting his hand forth to touch this form, he found the uniform, in which it appeared to be dressed, dripping wet. On the entrance of one of his brother officers, to whom he called out in alarm, the apparition vanished; but in a few months after, he received the startling intelligence that on that night his brother had been drowned in the Indian seas. Of the supernatural character of this appearance, Captain Kidd himself did not appear to have the slightest doubt.’—[A similar circumstance was mentioned to us some years ago of a lady, whose son went out as a Cadet to India, and who on the passage fell from the rigging into the sea, and perished. She awoke one night under an irresistible impression, that she saw him fall into the sea; and from the letters which afterwards reached her, it appeared that her dream occurred at the moment it was realized.—Ed. M.R.]
230 Lord Byron.

‘“To be happy at home,” says Johnson, “is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends.” But Lord Byron had no home,—at least none that deserved this endearing name. A fond, family circle to accompany him with its prayers, while away, and draw round him with listening eagerness, on his return, was what, unluckily, he never knew, though with a heart, as we have seen, by nature formed for it. In the absence, too, of all that might cheer and sustain, he had every thing to encounter that could distress and humiliate. To the dreariness of a home without affection was added the burden of an establishment without means, and he had thus all the embarrassments of domestic life without its charms. His affairs had, during his absence, been suffered to fall into confusion, even greater than their inherent tendency to such a state warranted. There had been, the preceding year, an execution on Newstead, for a debt of 1500l. owing to the Messrs. Brothers, upholsterers; and a circumstance, told of the veteran, Joe Murray, on this occasion, well deserves to be mentioned. To this faithful old servant, jealous of the ancient honour of the Byrons, the sight of the notice of sale, pasted up on the abbey-door, could not be otherwise than an unsightly and intolerable nuisance, Having enough, however, of the fear of the law before his eyes, not to tear the writing down, he was at last forced, as his only consolatory expedient, to paste a large piece of brown paper over it.’—pp. 257, 258.

On arriving in England, Lord Byron talked much to his friend, Mr. Dallas, of an imitation of Horace’sArt of Poetry,” which he had executed while abroad, and upon which he set a high value. With difficulty, and almost by accident, was it drawn from him that he had also written a number of verses in Spenser’s measure, “relative to the countries he had visited.” It is needless to add, that these verses formed the first cantos of Childe Harold. In his own opinion the imitation of Horace, which, if we may judge from the specimens given of it by Mr. Moore, was but a very poor performance, greatly excelled the Spenserian stanzas; thus adding one more to the strange instances on record, in which eminent authors have formed ludicrously false judgments on their own productions.

There are in this collection several letters from Lord Byron to his mother, in which he usually addresses her as the “Honourable Mrs. Byron,” a title to which he well knew she had no manner of right. He sometimes begins, “Dear Mother,” but more generally “Dear Madam,” and the tone of his correspondence with her is correctly described as that “of a son, performing, strictly and conscientiously, what he deems to be his duty, without the intermixture of any sentiment of cordiality to sweeten the task.” By way of contrast to this picture, Mr. Moore observes in a note, that “in many instances the mothers of illustrious poets have had reason to be proud, no less of the affection, than of the glory of their sons; and Tasso, Pope, Gray, and Cowper, are among these memorable examples of filial tenderness. In the lesser poems of Tasso, there are few things so beautiful as his description, in the Canzone to the Metauro, of his first parting with his mother.” To these ex-
Lord Byron.231
amples of filial piety, the future biographer of Mr. Moore will have to add another. It happens to us to know, that the intercourse between the distinguished author of
Lalla Rookh, and his mother, has been uniformly marked by the most endearing mutual kindness and attention.

Mr. Moore gives an interesting account of the commencement of his own acquaintance with Lord Byron, which, as is well known, grew out of a passage in the “English bards and Scotch reviewers,” giving, as Mr. Moore conceived, the “lie” to a public statement of his respecting the affair with Mr. Jeffrey. The explanations offered by Lord Byron, were so satisfactory, that an intercourse, begun in hostility, ended in a friendship which lasted without the slightest interruption, until the death of the noble poet. Their first meeting, which took place at the table of Mr. Rogers, is thus described.

‘It was, at first, intended by Mr. Rogers that his company at dinner should not extend beyond Lord Byron and myself; but Mr. Thomas Campbell, having called upon our host that morning, was invited to join the party, and consented. Such a meeting could not be otherwise than interesting to us all. It was the first time that Lord Byron was ever seen by any of his three companions; while he, on his side, for the first time, found himself in the society of persons, whose names had been associated with his first literary dreams, and to two* of whom he looked up with that tributary admiration, which youthful genius is ever ready to pay to its precursors.

‘Among the impressions which this meeting left upon me, what I chiefly remember to have remarked was the nobleness of his air, his beauty, the gentleness of his voice and manners, and—what was, naturally, not the least attraction—his marked kindness to myself. Being in mourning for his mother, the colour, as well of his dress, as of his glossy, curling, and picturesque hair, gave more effect to the pure, spiritual paleness of his features, in the expression of which, when he spoke, there was a perpetual play of lively thought, though melancholy was their habitual character, when in repose.

‘As we had none of us been apprized of his peculiarities with respect to food, the embarrassment of our host was not a little, on discovering that there was nothing upon the table which his noble guest could eat or drink. Neither meat, fish, or wine, would Lord Byron touch; and of biscuits and soda-water, which he asked for, there had been, unluckily, no provision. He professed, however, to be equally well pleased with potatoes and vinegar; and of these meagre materials contrived to make rather a hearty dinner.’—pp. 314, 315.

From this moment Mr. Moore and Lord Byron appear to have been upon the most intimate terms.

* ‘In speaking thus, I beg to disclaim all affected modesty. Lord Byron had already made the same distinction himself in the opinions which he expressed of the living poets; and I cannot but be aware that, for the praises which he afterwards bestowed on my writings, I was, in a great degree, indebted to his partiality to myself.’
232 Lord Byron.

‘We frequently, during; the first months of our acquaintance, dined together alone; and as we had no club in common, to resort to, the Alfred being the only one to which he, at that period, belonged, and I being then a member of none but Watier’s,—our dinners used to be either at the St. Alban’s, or at his old haunt, Stevens’s. Though at times he would drink freely enough of claret, he still adhered to his system of abstinence in food. He appeared, indeed, to have conceived a notion that animal food had some peculiar influence on the character; and I remember one day, as I sat opposite to him, employed, I suppose, rather earnestly over a beef-steak, after watching me for a few seconds, he said, in a grave tone of inquiry—“Moore, don’t you find eating beef-steak makes you ferocious?”’—p. 324.

Childe Harold” appeared in March 1812, and at once established the fame of the author. There is, we believe, no example upon record, of such a rapid advance to permanent glory as that which was made by Lord Byron. Before the publication of that poem he was known only as the writer of some dull verses, which were praised because they were written by a nobleman, and of a satire which though clever and pungent, was not capable of conferring upon him an enviable reputation. But when “Childe Harold” came forth, the effect was magical. He became, of course, for the season, the “lion” of all fashionable parties, and was looked up to as the first poet of the age. His fame was confirmed, and indeed increased by the “Giaour,” the “Bride of Abydos,” and the other beautiful poems which poured from his fancy, successively, in such rich profusion. It is a remarkable trait in his character, and strongly indicative of his ancestorial pride, that, although his circumstances were very far from being in a flourishing condition, he refused to accept, for himself, any thing in the way of pecuniary reward for his earlier writings.

We have been much amused with several of the extracts, which Mr. Moore has given from Lord Byron’s journals. The following may serve as a specimen of the most innocent, as well as the most lively portions of those incoherent memoranda:—

‘“I am ennuyé beyond my usual tense of that yawning verb, which I am always conjugating; and I don’t find that society much mends the matter. I am too lazy to shoot myself—and it would annoy Augusta, and perhaps * *; but it would be a good thing for George, on the other side, and no bad one for me; but I wont be tempted.

‘“I have had the kindest letter from M * *e. I do think that man is the best-hearted, the only hearted being I ever encountered; and then, his talents are equal to his feelings.

‘“Dined on Wednesday at Lord H.’s—the Staffords, Staëls, Cowpers, Ossulstones, Melbournes, Mackintoshes, &c. &c.—and was introduced to the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford,—an unexpected event. My quarrel with Lord Carlisle (their or his brother-in-law) having rendered it improper, I suppose, brought it about. But, if it was to happen at all, I wonder it did not occur before. She is handsome, and must have been beautiful—and her manners are princessly. * * *

Lord Byron. 233

‘“The Staël wwas at the other end of the table, and less loquacious than heretofore. We are now very good friends; though she asked Lady Melbourne whether I had really any bonhommie. She might as well have asked that question before she told C. L. ‘c’est un démon.’ True enough, but rather premature, for she could not have found it out, and so—she wants me to dine there next Sunday.

‘“Murray prospers, as far as circulation. For my part, I adhere (in liking) to my Fragment. It is no wonder that I wrote one—my mind is a fragment.

‘“Saw Lord Gower, Tierney, &c. in the square. Took leave of Lord Gr. who is going to Holland and Germany. He tells me, that he carries with him a parcel of ‘Harolds’ and ‘Giaours,’ &c. for the readers of Berlin, who, it seems, read English, and have taken a caprice for mine. Um!—have I been German all this time, when I thought myself oriental? * * *

‘“Lent Tierney my box for to-morrow; and received a new Comedy sent by Lady C. A.—but not hers. I must read it, and endeavour not to displease the author. I hate annoying them with cavil; but a comedy I take to be the most difficult of compositions, more so than tragedy.

‘“G—t says there is a coincidence between the first part of ‘the Bride’ and some story of his—whether published or not, I know not, never having seen it. He is almost the last person on whom any one would commit literary larceny, and I am not conscious of any witting thefts on any of the genus. As to originality, all pretensions are ludicrous,—‘there is nothing new under the sun.’

‘“Went last night to the play. * * * * Invited out to a party, but did not go;—right. Refused to go to Lady * *’s on Monday;—right again. If I must fritter away my life, I would rather do it alone. I was much tempted;—C * * looked so Turkish with her red turban, and her regular dark and clear features. Not that she and I ever were, or could be, any thing; but I love any aspect that reminds me of the ‘children of the sun.’

‘“To dine to-day with Rogers and Sharpe, for which I have some appetite, not having tasted food for the preceding forty-eight hours. I wish I could leave off eating altogether.’—pp. 466—468.

Lord Byron’s marriage with Miss Milbanke took place in the early part of 1815, and as the separation which took place in about a year after, was then, and still is, in many respects, a mystery, we must dedicate our remaining space to Mr. Moore’s account of that unhappy event.

‘I have already, in some observations on the general character of men of genius, endeavoured to point out those peculiarities, both in disposition and habitudes, by which, in the far greater number of instances, they have been found unfitted for domestic happiness. Of these defects (which are, as it were, the shadow that genius casts, and too generally, it is to be feared, in proportion to its stature,) Lord Byron could not, of course, fail to have inherited his share, in common with all the painfully-gifted class to which he belonged. How thoroughly, with respect to one attribute of this temperament which he possessed,—one that “sicklies o’er” the face of happiness itself,—he was understood by the person most interested in observing him, will appear from the following anecdote, as related by himself.

234 Lord Byron.

‘“People have wondered at the melancholy which runs through my writings. Others have wondered at my personal gaiety. But I recollect once, after an hour in which I had been sincerely and particularly gay and rather brilliant, in company, my wife replying to me when I said (upon her remarking my high spirits), ‘And yet, Bell, I have been called and mis-called melancholy—you must have seen how falsely, frequently?’—‘No, Byron,’ she answered, ‘it is not so: at heart you are the most melancholy of mankind; and often when apparently gayest.’”

‘To these faults and sources of faults, inherent in his own sensitive nature, he added also many of those which a long indulgence of self-will generates,—the least compatible, of all others (if not softened down, as they were in him, by good-nature), with that system of mutual concession and sacrifice by which the balance of domestic peace is maintained. When we look back, indeed, to the unbridled career, of which this marriage was meant to be the goal,—to the rapid and restless course in which his life had run along, like a burning train, through a series of wanderings, adventures, successes, and passions, the fever of all which was still upon him, when, with the same headlong recklessness, he rushed into this marriage,—it can but little surprise us that, in the space of one short year, he should not have been able to recover all at once from his bewilderment, or to settle down into that tame level of conduct which the officious spies of his privacy required. As well might it be expected that a steed like his own Mazeppa’s,
‘“Wild as the wild deer and untaught,
With spur and bridle undefiled—
’Twas but a day he had been caught,”
should stand still, when reined, without chafing or champing the bit.

‘Even had the new condition of life into which he passed been one of prosperity and smoothness, some time, as well as tolerance, must still have been allowed for the subsiding of so excited a spirit into rest. But, on the contrary, his marriage (from the reputation, no doubt, of the lady, as an heiress) was, at once, a signal for all the arrears and claims of a long-accumulating state of embarrassment to explode upon him;—his door was almost daily beset by duns, and his house nine times during that year in possession of bailiffs;* while, in addition to these anxieties and—what he felt still more

* ‘An anecdote connected with one of these occasions is thus related in the Journal just referred to.
‘“When the bailiff (for I have seen most kinds of life) came upon me in 1815 to seize my chattels, (being a peer of parliament, my person was beyond him,) being curious (as is my habit), I first asked him ‘what extents elsewhere he had for government?’ upon which he showed me one upon one house only for seventy thousand pounds! Next I asked him if he had nothing for Sheridan? ‘Oh—Sheridan!’ said he; ‘ay, I have this’ (pulling out a pocket book, &c.); ‘but, my lord, I have been in Sheridan’s house a twelvemonth at a time—a civil gentleman—knows how to deal with us,’ &c. &c. &c. Our own business was then discussed, which was none of the easiest for me at that time. But the man was civil, and (what I valued more) communicative. I had met many of his brethren, years before, in affairs of my friends (commoners, that is), but this was the first (or second) on my own account. A civil man; fee’d accordingly: probably he anticipated as much.”’
Lord Byron.235
—indignities of poverty, he had also the pain of fancying, whether lightly or wrongly, that the eyes of enemies and spies were upon him, even under his own roof, and that his every hasty word and look were interpreted in the most perverting light.

‘As, from the state of their means, his lady and he saw but little society, his only relief from the thoughts which a life of such embarrassment brought with it was in those avocations which his duty, as a member of the Drury-lane Committee, imposed upon him. And here,—in this most unlucky connection with the theatre,—one of the fatalities of his short year of trial, as husband, lay. From the reputation which he had previously acquired for gallantries, and the sort of reckless and boyish levity to which—often in very “bitterness of soul”—he gave way, it was not difficult to bring suspicion upon some of those acquaintances which his frequent intercourse with the green-room induced him to form, or even (as, in one instance, was the case), to connect with his name injuriously that of a person to whom he had scarcely ever addressed a single word.

‘Notwithstanding, however, this ill-starred concurrence of circumstances, which might have palliated any excesses either of temper or conduct into which they drove him, it was, after all, I am persuaded, to no such serious causes that the unfortunate alienation, which so soon ended in disunion, is to be traced. “In all the marriages I have ever seen,” says Steele, “most of which have been unhappy ones, the great cause of evil has proceeded from slight occasions;” and to this remark the marriage at present under our consideration would not be found, I think, on inquiry, to furnish much exception. Lord Byron himself, indeed, when at Cephalonia, a short time before his death, seems to have expressed, in a few words, the whole pith of the mystery. An English gentleman with whom he was conversing on the subject of Lady Byron, having ventured to enumerate to him the various causes he had heard alleged for the separation, the noble poet, who had seemed much amused with their absurdity and falsehood, said, after listening to them all,—“the causes, my dear sir, were too simple to be easily found out.”

‘In truth, the circumstances, so unexampled, that attended their separation,—the last words of the parting wife to the husband being those of the most playful affection, while the language of the deserted husband towards the wife was in a strain, as the world knows, of tenderest eulogy,—are in themselves a sufficient proof that, at the time of their parting, there could have been no very deep sense of injury on either side. It was not till afterwards that, in both bosoms, the repulsive force came into operation,—when, to the party which had taken the first decisive step in the strife, it became naturally a point of pride to persevere in it with dignity, and this unbendingness provoked, as naturally, in the haughty spirit of the other, a strong feeling of resentment which overflowed, at last, in acrimony and scorn. If there be any truth, however, in the principle that they “never pardon, who have done the wrong,” Lord Byron, who was, to the last, disposed to reconciliation, proved so far, at least, his conscience to have been unhaunted by any very disturbing consciousness of aggression.

‘But though it would have been difficult, perhaps, for the victims of this strife, themselves, to have pointed out any single, or definite, cause for their disunion,—beyond that general incompatibility which is the canker of all such marriages,—the public, which seldom allows itself to be at a fault on these occasions, was, as usual, ready with an ample supply of reasons
236Lord Byron.
for the breach,—all tending to blacken the already darkly painted character of the poet, and representing him, in short, as a finished monster of cruelty and depravity. The reputation of the object of his choice for every possible virtue (a reputation which had been, I doubt not, one of his own chief incentives to the marriage, from the vanity, reprobate as he knew he was deemed, of being able to win such a paragon), was now turned against him by his assailants, not only in the way of contrast with his own character, but as if the excellences of the wife were proof positive of every enormity they chose to charge upon the husband.

‘Meanwhile, the unmoved silence of the lady herself (from motives, it is but fair to suppose, of generosity and delicacy), under the repeated demands made for a specification of her charges against him, left to malice and imagination the fullest range for their combined industry. It was accordingly stated, and almost universally believed, that the noble lord’s second proposal to Miss Milbanke had been but with a view to revenge himself for the slight inflicted by her refusal of the first, and that he himself had confessed so much to her, on their way from church. At the time when, as the reader has seen from his own honey-moon letters, he was with all the good-will in the world, imagining himself into happiness, and even boasting, in the pride of his fancy, that if marriage were to be upon lease, he would gladly renew his own for a term of ninety-nine years,—at this very time, according to these veracious chroniclers, he was employed in darkly following up the aforesaid scheme of revenge, and tormenting his lady by all sorts of unmanly cruelties,—such as firing off pistols, to frighten her as she lay in bed,* and other such freaks.

‘To the falsehoods concerning his green-room intimacies, and particularly with respect to one beautiful actress, with whom, in reality, he had hardly ever exchanged a single word, I have already adverted; and the extreme confidence with which this tale was circulated and believed affords no unfair specimen of the sort of evidence with which the public, in all such fits of moral wrath, is satisfied. It is, at the same time, very far from my intention to allege that, in the course of the noble poet’s intercourse with the theatre, he was not sometimes led into a line of acquaintance and converse, unbefitting, if not dangerous to, the steadiness of married life. But the imputations against him on this head were (as far as affected his conjugal character) not the less unfounded,—as the sole case, in which he afforded any thing like real grounds for such an accusation, did not take place till after the period of the separation.’—pp. 649—653.

* ‘For this story, however, there was so far a foundation that the practice to which he had accustomed himself from boyhood, of having loaded pistols always near him at night, was considered so strange a propensity as to be included in that list of symptoms (sixteen, I believe, in number) which were submitted to medical opinion, in proof of his insanity. Another symptom was the emotion, almost to hysterics, which he had exhibited on seeing Kean act Sir Giles Overreach. But the most plausible of all the grounds, as he himself used to allow, on which these articles of impeachment against his sanity were drawn up, was an act of violence committed by him on a favourite old watch that had been his companion from boyhood, and had gone with him to Greece. In a fit of vexation and rage, brought on by some of those humiliating embarrassments to which he was now almost daily a prey, he furiously dashed this watch upon the hearth, and ground it to pieces among the ashes with the poker.’
Lord Byron. 237

To this account, which, after all, still leaves something to be explained, it is but an act of justice towards Lady Byron, to add a note which her husband addressed to Mr. Rogers on this melancholy subject.

March 25th, 1816.

‘“You are one of the few persons with whom I have lived in what is called intimacy, and have heard me at times conversing on the untoward topic of my recent family disquietudes. Will you have the goodness to say to me at once, whether you ever heard me speak of her with disrespect, with unkindness, or defending myself at her expence by any serious imputation of any description against her? Did you never hear me say ‘that when there was a right or a wrong, she had the right?’—The reason I put these questions to you or others of my friends is, because I am said, by her and hers, to have resorted to such means of exculpation. Ever very truly yours, ‘“B.’”—p. 655.

Shortly after this event Lord Byron once more took his departure from England—never to see its shores again. The history of the remainder of his career, will be told in the second volume. It will, we fear, be in too many respects like that which we have just closed, the picture of a wayward, and yet powerful mind,—knowing what is right, but unhappily too often adopting what is wrong. We follow his story with much of that sort of interest which attaches to the memoirs of Napoleon, and shall look forward to its continuation with impatience.